Are you considering introducing a dog to your school? We regularly get enquiries from schools who want to train their own dog to be part of the school community. While this isn’t a service Dogs for Good offer, we’ve joined with another charity Dogs Helping Kids to produce guidance for schools considering introducing a dog into the school environment.

Introducing a dog to your school

The guide below is designed to help if you are considering introducing a dog to your school. It is not a complete checklist and much will depend on your individual circumstances. You can also click here to download the guidance.

Guidance for schools looking to introduce a dog

Dogs for Good and Dogs Helping Kids believe there is significant potential for dogs to help young people in a range of educational environments, bringing benefits to their academic, emotional and social development.

Together we have built up considerable experience of working with specially-trained dogs and dedicated handlers in a range of schools and community environments and offer structured school dog programmes for schools.

Bringing a dog into your school is a significant commitment which should be carefully understood and planned. At the heart of the safety and success of any programme will be a clear focus on the wellbeing of the dog.

Detailed below are six key factors to help and inform any decision to introduce a dog to your school, plus details of where you can get further help and advice.

Key considerations for introducing a dog to your school

  1. Right reasons

You know why you want a dog in your school and you’ve done your homework about what it involves.

  • Ensure you understand the practical considerations of having a dog in school (eg toileting; hygiene standards; the need for a structured and planned timetable for your dog and his/her handler; space for the dog to rest for significant periods during the school day; areas of school that are unsuitable for a dog).
  • You understand the costs associated with the dog and who will be responsible for them.
  • Make appropriate insurance arrangements to cover your dog and its activities in school.
  • Assess the risks and know what you will do if things do not go as planned.
  • Have a back-up plan in place to care for the dog when he cannot attend school (eg if he/she is unwell).
  1. Right commitment/support

You have support from governors, staff, parents and students to introduce a dog into your school.

  • Engage all your stakeholders in your decision-making.
  • Ensure you understand and manage any concerns up front (eg allergies; fears; cultural issues).
  • Shape your plans based on the feedback you receive.
  1. Right place

You have assessed that your school is an appropriate environment for a dog – and for the individual dog you select.

  • Consider your school from a dog’s perspective: remember, it is not a natural home for a dog.
  • Take advice and make an informed choice for the right dog for your school.
  • Understand how you will need to adapt the school environment.
  • Consider the hours the dog will be in school and where he/she will be based.
  • Remember if your dog does not feel safe, your students will not be safe.
  1. Right training

You have a suitable socialisation and training programme to prepare the dog for school life.

  • A dog is unlikely to be mature enough to work in a school environment until he/she is at least one year old and has completed all his/her training
  • Don’t expect your dog to ‘get’ school life; you will need to prepare him/her. An effective socialisation process will help him/her to feel comfortable around children and introduce him/her gradually to the school environment.
  • Get your dog assessed to ensure he has the right temperament and has reached the right levels of training to interact with students in school.
  • Make sure you know where to get help.
  1. Right support for your dog

You have a dedicated and experienced person who understands the dog’s needs who will support the dog at school and at home (while also understanding the needs of your students).

  • Your dog will need a person to handle and support him/her in school. A dog should never be left alone with students.
  • They will need a good understanding of dog behaviour and body language – and, specifically, to have built a trusted relationship with the dog,
  • Do the appropriate checks through DBS and referencing to assure yourself that the person you select is suitable to work with children.
  • Ensure they are committed to positive training techniques and to responding to the changing needs of your dog over time.
  • They need to be confident to set standards in school and ensure everyone sticks to them – the dog’s wellbeing should never be compromised.
  • They should not be distracted by other duties when handling the dog.
  1. Right preparation

You have a clear plan and procedures to prepare your school for the introduction of a dog.

  • Take time to educate students, teachers and other staff: to understand the dog’s needs; know how to act around, and engage with, the dog.
  • Produce a timetable for the dog with clear rest periods away from students.
  • Review how things are going regularly and make changes as required (e.g. Reduce dog’s time in school if there are signs of fatigue).
  • Have a clear plan in place of what you will do if things do not go as planned.

Further information

To find out more about structured school dog programmes, please contact us at [email protected].

Dogs Helping Kids: You can find more information on our training programme for schools and potential school dogs at www.dogshelpingkids.co.uk